Why Is It So Hard To Find a Mercedes-Benz Unimog in the US?
The G-Wagon, aka the G-Class, tends to be the model people first think of when you ask about an off-road Mercedes-Benz. However, as capable as it is, in terms of overlanding ability, it plays second-fiddle to another Mercedes-Benz: the Unimog. Still, while Mercedes Unimogs make for excellent campers, trying to find one isn’t easy. But with enough patience—and funds—it can be done.
Mercedes-Benz only sold the Unimog in the US briefly and semi-officially
The Unimog—or, to give its full name, the ‘Universal-Motor-Gerät,’ Silodrome explains—wasn’t originally a Mercedes-Benz product. The truck/military vehicle/do-it-all machine was designed in 1946 as a kind of German super-tractor, Automobile reports. And while Unimog production started in 1948, Mercedes didn’t take over until 1951.
But, although Mercedes-Benz still makes the Unimog, it’s not for sale in the US. Or at least, it’s not for sale right now in the US. Because for at least two brief periods the ultra-capable overlander was available here.
Starting in 1975, agricultural-equipment company J.I. Case, aka Case Construction Equipment, imported Mercedes-Benz Unimogs as farming tools, Automobile reports. A few even ended up in the hands of the US Army, Jalopnik reports. However, this importation arrangement ended in 1980.
Then in the early 2000s, Mercedes-Benz itself tried to import the Unimog into the US. At the time, monster-sized trucks like the SuperTruck Ford F-650, the GMC TopKick, and the International CXT were a somewhat-popular segment, Road & Track reports. So, Mercedes started selling U500 models through a small number of Freightliner dealers. But only about 200 examples sold from 2002 until 2007.
And since then, no new Unimogs have been sold in the US.
What’s the best way to find a Mercedes-Benz Unimog in the US?
However, just because Mercedes-Benz doesn’t sell the Unimog here doesn’t mean you can’t still buy a used one. And there are several buying options available.
One way is through an auction site like Bring a Trailer or Cars and Bids. The latter even recently featured one of the Freightliner-imported U500 models. Naturally, though, you’re limited by auction timing and what other people previously purchased. Plus, if you’re out-bid you have to start your search all over.
The other option is to go through a licensed Unimog importer such as Expedition Imports. As with JDM or other European-market imports, your options are limited to models that are at least 25 years old. And your budget has to include the various fees and taxes that accompany an imported vehicle. However, you can pick out exactly which Mercedes Unimog you want.
How much do they cost?
Mercedes Unimog prices vary based on the specific example’s age, overall condition, and pre-existing modifications. If you’re buying a Unimog to have as an overlander or camper van, be prepared to pay extra for a ‘pre-built’ one.
Imported Unimogs go for anywhere from $20,000-$80,000 on Bring a Trailer; the US-legal Freightliner ones often go for six figures. The final bid on the 2004 U500 on Cars and Bids was $131k, which wasn’t enough to meet the reverse. That makes sense, given it was previously listed for sale at $369k, Gear Patrol reports. That’s only slightly more than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s personal Mercedes Unimog went for, R&T reports.
Still, even a classic Unimog has multiple locking differentials, 4WD with transfer case, portal axles, a hyper-flexible chassis, and several crawler and reverse gears, Automobile reports. So, while it has fewer modern electronics, it can go practically anywhere.
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